The 2023 NBA Draft will go down in history as the year Victor Wembanyama entered the league regardless of whether he lives up to the enormous hype. Wembanyama is conservatively being called the ‘best prospect since LeBron James,’ and that might be underselling him. Wembanyama is in a stratosphere all by himself in this draft class, and he’s going to change both the present and future of the San Antonio Spurs once his name is called at No. 1 overall.
It’s a strong draft class even after Wembanyama. G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson would be in contention to go No. 1 overall in most drafts. Brandon Miller and Cam Whitmore are the type of high-upside scoring wings teams covet in today’s NBA. The Thompson twins are the most fascinating prospects in the class as hyper-athletic guards with plus size who are blazing their trail out of the Overtime Elite league. In my evaluation, the top-11 prospects on the board feel like they would earn strong lottery consideration in any draft.
We’ve been scouting this draft class for multiple years, with our first mock draft for this group being published the day after the 2022 NBA Draft. So much has changed over the last year, but the majority of our first board still looks pretty good 12 months later. Here is our final 2023 NBA Draft board with the top-60 players in the class ranked regardless of position. This list features tiers to show when the talent level in the draft starts to drop off.
Find more analysis of this class after the table.
NBA draft board 2023: Best players available
|1||1||Victor Wembanyama||Big/Forward||Metropolitans 92 (France)|
|2||2||Scoot Henderson||Guard||G League Ignite|
|3||2||Amen Thompson||Guard||Overtime Elite|
|8||3||Ausar Thompson||Wing||Overtime Elite|
|13||4||Brice Sensabaugh||Wing||Ohio State|
|14||4||Leonard Miller||Forward||G League Ignite|
|16||4||Nick Smith Jr.||Guard||Arkansas|
|21||4||Brandin Podziemski||Guard||Santa Clara|
|23||4||Bilal Coulibaly||Wing||Metropolitans 92 (France)|
|24||5||Tristan Vukčević||Big/Forward||Real Madrid|
|25||5||GG Jackson||Forward||South Carolina|
|31||5||Dereck Lively II||Big||Duke|
|34||5||Sidy Cissoko||Wing||G League Ignite|
|36||5||Rayan Rupert||Wing||New Zealand Breakers (France)|
|38||6||Terquavion Smith||Guard||NC State|
|42||6||Ricky Council IV||Wing||Arkansas|
|44||6||Seth Lundy||Wing||Penn State|
|45||6||James Nnaji||Big||FC Barcelona|
|49||7||Mouhamed Gueye||Big||Washington State|
|50||7||Emoni Bates||Wing||Eastern Michigan|
|53||7||Keyontae Johnson||Wing||Kansas State|
|60||7||Marcus Bagley||Wing||Arizona State|
Victor Wembanyama is 1 of 1
Last year’s board had four prospects in the Tier 1 — which I regret a bit now since I had Paolo Banchero as my wire-to-wire top player throughout the cycle. This year, there’s Victor Wembanyama and then everyone else. I genuinely believe that Wembanyama would have the chance to go No. 1 overall in every draft in league history, which is something that can probably only be said about LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain. No pressure, kid.
The sales pitch on Wembanyama is easy to see. He’s 7’5 with an 8-foot wingspan, making him the tallest and longest player in the NBA from the moment he’s drafted. Most 7’5 centers move like Tacko Fall or Zach Edey and can’t cut it in today’s pace-and-space era. Wemby is different: he’s an incredibly fluid athlete for a player his size, showing the ability to defend on the perimeter and impressive closing speed to the rim on both ends of the floor. He’s skilled enough to take and make difficult three-pointers, and he shot 82 percent from the free throw line on the line. He plays with a high-motor, and he’s a willing passer.
He’s going to do things the league has never seen before.
In addition to his historic physical tools, Wembanayam also proved that he could have a significant impact on winning playing against strong competition. He led his team Mets 92 to the Finals of the top French pro league, and was named MVP, Best Young Player, Best Defender, Top Scorer, and Best Blocker in the league. His teammates seemed to rally around him all year. He appears to have what it takes to reach greatness.
Just about the only thing that can stop Wembanyama are injuries. The Spurs feel like an awesome place for him to start his NBA career with so many quality young role players already in place on the roster. The Wemby era starts now, and we can’t wait to watch it.
Why Scoot Henderson is No. 2 overall
Henderson left Kell High School in suburban Atlanta a year early to sign a two-year deal with the G League Ignite, the NBA’s developmental program for top prospects who want to bypass college basketball. His tape in the G League is filled with so many moments of brilliance that established him as the type of point guard prospect the NBA has always coveted even if his overall numbers didn’t always match his talent level.
At 6’2 with 6’9 wingspan, Henderson has an incredibly strong frame that will help him overwhelm opponents from early in his career. He has a great first step that allows him to blow by the first line of the defense, and he’s capable of some super athletic finishes above the rim as a dunker. Henderson is already a skilled pick-and-roll operator who can blend his own scoring with setting up teammates. His mid-range jumper is already a major weapon, showing the ability to hit the breaks on his drives and flow into pull-ups that will be especially effective with more spacing in the NBA. He’s a good free throw shooter who should one day draw a lot of fouls because of the pressure he puts on the rim.
There are some holes in Henderson’s statistical profile. He consistently shot under 30 percent from three. He had some moments where he struggled to finish over length at the rim. His defensive film is a mixed bag despite his tremendous tools because of poor technique and a lack of engagement. He will need to become a better off-ball player if he gets selected No. 2 overall to the Charlotte Hornets and joins LaMelo Ball in the backcourt.
It’s fair to doubt Henderson in some regard because he’s a 6’2 guard who struggles to shoot from the outside. At the same time, he has so much burst as a ball handler and is already so good at balancing scoring and playmaking. He looks like an All-Star and perhaps All-NBA guard to me.
The Thompson twins are the boom-or-bust prospects who can take this class to the next level
I profiled twins Amen and Ausar Thompson earlier this week. Read that story for a more detailed view of their talent and their unique path to the NBA draft.
In short, the Thompsons are huge guards — 6’7 with a 7-foot wingspan — with elite athleticism and broken jump shots. Amen is a point guard who might be the most athletic player in the NBA next year. He’s a gifted and creative playmaker for his teammates, a terror in transition, and a monster at attacking the rim. Ausar is an off-ball guard who is slightly less athletic, but profiles as a better shooter, tighter ball handler, and more effective defender.
The Thompsons are an especially difficult evaluation for a few different reasons. For one, they arrive in the draft out of an upstart Overtime Elite league that more closely resembles AAU basketball than college or international hoops — all while being a few years older than most of their opponents. The Thompsons are also rough shooters from both the three-point line and free throw line. Amen in particular profiles as one of the worst shooters of any guard in the league next year.
Still, the upside here is so tantalizing. Even as a one-level scorer, Amen’s first step and absurd burst as a ball handler is legitimately game-breaking. I think Ausar is going to shoot eventually and will be a chaos agent in the best possible way on both ends of the floor. To me, passing on the Thompsons is just as risky as drafting them. My personal draft philosophy prioritizes upside swings over going for safer role players. The Thompsons each have a high enough ceiling to go in the top-10 of this draft.
There are 11 no-brainer lottery talents in this class
Here’s a quick look at the other prospects in this class I think would earn serious lottery consideration in any draft:
- Cam Whitmore, F, Villanova: I have a slight preference for Whitmore over Brandon Miller because of his overpowering combination of explosiveness and strength in a jacked 6’7, 235-pound frame. Whitmore is super bursty as a driver and an excellent leaper who looks like he’s shot out of a cannon on rim attacks. I’m buying his jump shot from three even if he needs to quicken his release a bit. His passing vision is his biggest red flag, but he’s also one of the younger players in this class, so maybe that can develop in time.
- Brandon Miller, F, Alabama: While I’m a tad lower on Miller than most, this isn’t going to be a James Wiseman situation. Miller is a worthy top-five prospect as a tall wing who can shoot threes at volume, score on an island, and throw some impressive passes. He is not an overwhelming athlete, which limits his defensive potential and handicaps his on-ball creation when he fails to gain separation as a driver. He feels like he’s going to be dependent on a high three-point percentage to live up to his lofty draft spot. He’s a good shooter for sure, but I’m not super confident he’s a 40 percent sniper in the league long-term.
- Jarace Walker, F, Houston: Nasty 6’8, 240-pound wrecking ball on defense with a 7’2 wingspan. Rare prospect who offers both wing stopper and rim protection potential. Will be valuable as a connective piece on offense who can make quick passing reads. I also think he has more one-on-one scoring potential than he showed in college while being asked to play a winning role on a loaded veteran team. His three-point shot is his swing skill. I think he should be at least an average shooter for a four, but it would be ideal if he was paired with a stretch five.
- Taylor Hendricks, F, UCF: At 6’8 with a 7-foot wingspan, Hendricks fits the classic ‘stretch four’ mold by offering spot-up shooting and rim protection. He’s an excellent supplemental rim protector and a good three-point shooter who unlocks a lot of different team building avenues because of both skills. I love that Hendricks hammers dunks when he gets the ball inside, but his offensive skill set is pretty limited if the shot isn’t falling.
- Cason Wallace, G, Kentucky: Elite defensive guard and master of the chasedown block who plays bigger than his 6’3 size. Wallace isn’t really a traditional on-ball creator as a point guard, but I’m buying his three-point stroke and connective passing. He’s the perfect type of guard to pair with a big initiator, and has a high floor as a role player even if he doesn’t project as a traditional star.
- Gradey Dick, G, Kansas: Dick is a 6’8 knockdown shooter with real versatility in how he fires threes. He’s played in a lot of big games throughout high school and college, and has always survived on the defensive end even if his ceiling on that end tops out at average. In a league that takes and makes more threes ever year, Dick’s volume shooting is a real weapon.
- Anthony Black, G, Arkansas: Super-sized guard with a strong lower body and major defensive potential for being able to switch across four positions. Just feels like the type of player who thrives in the playoffs. I’m lower on him than others because he doesn’t have a ton of on-ball juice as a scorer, and isn’t a good three-point shooter yet. If the shot comes around, he’s going to be an elite role player.
Some upside swings likely to be found after the lottery
Here are some of my favorite players in this class that are typically being projected outside of the lottery.
- Jett Howard, F, Michigan: Howard is limited athletically and had some truly bad moments defensively for Michigan this season. So why do I have him No. 12 overall in this class? He’s one of the very best shooters in this class for my money after hitting 37 percent of his threes and 80 percent of his free throws. He also has real potential to create offense off the dribble with tight ball handling and a smooth pull-up. Even if the defensive concerns are real, Howard has a nice 6’8 frame and should be able to improve with more seasoning. It’s hard to find an offensive package this enticing in a player as big as Howard, and that makes him worth betting on.
- Dariq Whitehead, G, Duke: Elite recruit who started the year slow because of a broken bone in his foot. He never really regained the explosiveness as a driver he showed off in high school, but instead remade himself into a knockdown three-point shooter when that was supposed to be a weakness in his skill set. If he can get back to where he was athletically, I think he can be a well-rounded big guard who can play on or off-the-ball at the next level.
- Noah Clowney, F, Alabama: Clowney is very young and very raw, but the actualized version of him is extremely appealing if he hits. He’s a big four who offers rim protection and floor spacing while still being able to rebound and finish around the rim. It’s going to take a patient team and the right developmental structure to get him to hit his upside.
NBA Draft sleepers to watch
Here are a few players who could return big value outside of the first round:
- Tristan Vukčević, C, Real Madrid: Looked like the best big shooter in this draft class at the combine by measuring over 6’11 and torching the nets from deep in the scrimmages. Not a good mover and will have trouble finding a position to defend in the league, but there’s always value in a 7-footer who can shoot with both high volume and high accuracy.
- Amari Bailey, G, UCLA: Physical, well-rounded guard who can hold his own defensively, space the floor as a spot-up shooter, and offer some driving ability. It feels like evaluators wrote him off too quickly as a former top recruit without game-breaking athleticism or a developed shot, but he’s solid enough in so many different areas to have a long career.
- Jalen Slawson, F, Furman: Skilled 6’7 forward who can really pass and has a knack for making plays on the defensive end with quick hands and smart rotations. He’s not a standout athlete and needs to prove his shooting improvement as a shooter can withhold higher volume, but he impacts so many areas of the game that he’s worth betting on.